This week of reviews of malts from Highland distilleries began with a 10 yo Loch Lomond/Inchmoan. Let’s go further north now to Clynelish in the northern highlands and add a year to the age. Unlike Monday’s Inchmoan, which was made with wine yeast used in the fermentation process, there is nothing, as far as I know, out of the ordinary about this Clynelish. It was released by Signatory in their Unchillfiltered Collection. Signatory released a few of these 11 year olds from the 2008 vintage and I’m sorry to say that not having realized that before this evening I failed to ask the source of my samples for more specific cask information—and now I can’t remember who the source of my samples was! As always, getting old is a lot of fun. Anyway, of those 2019 releases were from bourbon barrels and so we know what the cask type is. Anyway: bourbon cask Clynelish is almost always a good thing and Signatory has always been a good source of Clynelish casks. And so I am hopeful that this will not disappoint. Let’s see. Continue reading
Okay, let’s do a week of reviews of Highland distilleries. First up is a Loch Lomond 10 bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Word on the street is that this is more specifically an Inchmoan. Inchmoan is, as you probably know, one of Loch Lomond’s peated lines. Though what exactly separates Inchmoan from the other peated Loch Lomonds—your Inchfads and Croftengeas—I’m not entirely sure and you may need to go to a more reliable source to find out. Well, this particular Inchmoan is quite different from most whiskies, whether made at Loch Lomond or elsewhere. That because the yeast used for the batch this cask came from was quite different from the types normally used in the fermentation process in making single malt whisky: it was a wine yeast. Now, for all I know, I’ve had other whiskies before without knowing it that had wine yeast in their production process but now that I do know for a fact that it was used to make this whisky I am very curious to see what characteristics it imparts. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
Here is the third of three Arran reviews for the week. The first two were official distillery releases: the Quarter Cask/The Bothy Batch 3, which is part of the distillery’s current range; and the 2018 release of the 14 yo, which has apparently since been discontinued. Today’s whisky is an independent release, a single bourbon hogshead bottled by Cadenhead in 2017. Somewhat unusually it seems to have been bottled for the American market. Coincidentally, there was also a distillery bottled 17 yo sherry cask from the 1999 vintage that was bottled for the Japanese market. But that is neither here nor there.
I liked the 14 yo quite a bit more than the NAS Quarter Cask. Will I like this 17 yo even more? Let’s see.
Arran 17, 1999 (55.2%; Cadenhead; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Lemon and toasted oak to start. On the second sniff there’s malt and some toffee. The toffee expands as it sits and the fruit transitions from lemon to apricot (baked rather than fresh or jammy). Some wood glue in here too now. Sweeter with water but otherwise in the same vein. Continue reading
My week of Arran reviews got off to an inauspicious start with the Quarter Cask, Batch 3. Let’s hope this 14 yo moves us in the other direction. It’s been a while since I’ve had the Arran 14 but I’ve always liked it when I have in the past (see my review of a bottle from the 2010 release). I have to say I don’t remember seeing it on shelves here in a while but that may just be a marker of how little whisky I’ve bought in the last couple of years. This sample is not from a recent release, for what it’s worth: my source tells me the bottle is from 2018. I’m interested to see what it’s like.
Arran 14, 2018 Release (46%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ah yes, a lovely blast of fruit, with lemon and pineapple leading the way; malt comes up from below to join the fruit, bringing a touch of yeast with it. Some oak framing it all below. On the second and third sniffs the fruit gets muskier with cider and overripe pears. A few drops of water push the acid down and emphasize the malt and muskier fruit. Continue reading
Having started the month with a review of an Allt-a-Bhainne let’s end the the week with another Speyside distillery; and let’s get back to K&L’s recent parcel of casks with a Mortlach bottled by Old Particular. I did a week of reviews of Mortlach in May. Those included a 20 yo refill sherry cask, a 12 yo sherry cask (also bottled for K&L), and a 10 yo bourbon cask. I liked the two sherry casks more than the bourbon cask then. Was that a function of the cask type or the age? Today’s Mortlach is 15 years old and from a refill hogshead. It’s both older than the 10 yo and at cask strength. Let’s see if I like it any better.
Mortlach 15, 2006 (56.7%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Cereals, dusty oak and then rapidly expanding lemon peel and zest, getting quite oily as it goes. As it sits there’s some of what we call ber in India—jujube in English? Anyway, there’s some tart-sweet red fruit. With time there’s some plum mixed in there too. A few drops of water and the lemon peel/oil recedes a bit; there’s more of the ber/jujube along with some ham brine. Continue reading
So far this month my whisky review themes have been the following: Craigellachie (here, here and here); sherry casks bottled by Old Particular for K&L (here, here and here); and heavily peated Islay whiskies (here, here and here). Let’s now end the month with reviews of some more delicate Speysiders. First up is a 16 yo Braes of Glenlivet (the throwback name for Braeval) bottled by Cadenhead in 2013. It was released in their “Small Batch” series. But as the outturn was 270 bottles and the cask type is specified as bourbon hogshead, it seems safe to assume this was a single cask release. I bought this at the same time as I did this Dufftown 26 (also from Cadenhead) and this Unnamed Orkney 14 (bottled by Signatory) and also a G&M Caol Ila trio I have not yet reviewed. All were purchased with a consortium of friends. I kept half of each botle and they split the rest. I’ve been drinking and enjoying this for the last two months and here finally are my tasting notes. Continue reading
Peated Islay week started with Batch 013 of the Laphroaig 10 CS. It turned out to be my least favourite of the batches so far—though by no means a bad whisky. Today I have a review of a slightly younger Islay whisky. Speaking of which, ignore what it says on the sample bottle label in the picture alongside: that second line listing age and abv was swapped accidentally with that of a Thompson Bros. Teaninich. This is a Caol Ila 8, distilled in 2013 and bottled at 57% abv. Caol Ila is almost always good for the kind of nuance missing in that Laphroaig 10 CS, especially when matured in bourbon casks; and this one was matured in a refill hogshead. The bottlers are Simon and Phil Thompson of the Dornoch Distillery and hotel (see my brief account of a visit there in 2018). They are well-known figures in the single malt whisky world and are working as small-scale independent bottlers as their own spirit waits to come online. This is one of a few casks they’ve bottled recently for K&L in California. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
This week of sherry casks from distilleries from different whisky producing regions of Scotland bottled by Old Particular for K&L got off to a good start on Monday with a 16 yo Glenrothes. It then hit a bit of a pothole in the road with a 17 yo Glenturret. Let’s see if the youngest of the trio can take us to a strong finish. This is a 15 yo Ledaig, or peated Tobermory from the Isle of Mull. There has been a lot of Ledaig available from independent bottlers in the last decade and a fair bit of it from sherry casks. Ledaig’s flavour of peat tends towards the farmy and organic. It can be funky but it also takes sherry very well. At least that has been my experience. Let’s see if that is borne out here.
Ledaig 15, 2006 (51.8%; Old Particular for K&L; refill butt DL 14901; from a bottle split)
Nose: Big farmy peat mixed in with rich sherry (orange peel, raisins, fruitcake). Saltier with each sniff. With more time and air it softens, with some toffee and milky cocoa and a touch of vanilla. Some rotting leaves mixed in there too now in the farmy peat complex. A squirt of water pulls out a lot of lime and mixes it nicely with the salt; ashier here too now. With a bit more time the lime moves towards preserved lemon. Continue reading
Let’s make this a triple or even quadruple-themed week: 1) three whiskies from three different regions; 2) all sherry cask whiskies; 3) all whiskies bottled by Old Particular (a label of one of the Laing offshoots); 4) all whiskies bottled for K&L in California. Yes, I once again went in on a bottle splits of one of K&L’s recent parcel of casks. I assume these are all sold out by now so these reviews will not be of use as a buying guide—but if you’ve picked up a bottle of any of these, let me know if your notes resonate with mine. First up is a Glenrothes 16, distilled in 2005 and matured in a sherry butt. There seem to be a number of these sherry cask Glenrothes around these days. Across 2020 and 2021 I reviewed a trio bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (here, here, and here). In addition to being sherry bombs, those were all massive alcohol bombs: all bottled north of 64.5%. I am glad to say that this one is at a tame 57.2% by comparison. I really don’t see the point of most whiskies past 60% I have to say but I realize I am out of tune with the times. I really liked all three of those anyway and am hoping this might be as good. Let’s see. (And for a recent review of a Glenrothes from a bourbon hogshead, see here.) Continue reading
Craigellachie week got off to an unremarkable start with the 2017 release of the official 13 yo on Monday. Wednesday’s 13 yo, 2007 bottled by Cadenhead brought it roaring back in the other direction. To end the week now I have another official release, this time a 19 yo. This is not part of Craigellachie’s regular lineup; it was a single cask release for the US market a few years ago. I got this sample from Michael Kravitz (of the excellent Diving for Pearls blog). Michael bought it because it was distilled on his 21st birthday. I gather it was quite expensive. But that’s the single malt whisky market these days, especially for official distillery releases: 19 year olds are the new 25 year olds. The fact that this was a sherry butt probably also helped convince customers; I could be wrong but I think American whisky drinkers fetishize dark whiskies more than Europeans do. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Craigellachie week did not get off to the strongest start on Monday. The official 13 yo did not make me regret failing to try it in the near decade that it’s been out (though I suppose it may have improved a lot since the 2017 release, which is what I reviewed). Today I have a review of another 13 yo but this one is an indie release. It’s a single bourbon hogshead, and an ex-peated one at that. I do not know which distillery was the source of the peated cask; I don’t believe Bacardi—the owners of Craigellachie—have any other distilleries in their portfolio that traditionally produce peated malt (though one of the them may put out a peated variant). I suppose it’s also possible that the source of the cask may have been the bottler, Cadenhead—but that’s all speculation. If you have any ideas/knowledge on this score, please do share below. I can tell you it was distilled in 2007 and that the Cadenhead name is usually a good thing. Will it put Craigellachie week back on track? I can only hope so. Continue reading
There’ll be no whisky review this Friday as it’s the first of the month and so let’s call it a mini-sherry cask week (following Monday’s Balvenie PX Finish). I noted on Monday that I have not reviewed very many Balvenies; well, this is only my second review of an Aberfeldy. The first was a 17 yo bottled by Cadenhead in 2014 from bourbon hogsheads. This one is a year younger and was bottled in 2020 by G&M from a refill sherry hogshead. I quite liked the ex-bourbon 17 yo—will this one be at least as good? Let’s see.
Aberfeldy 16, 2003 (58.8%; G&M; refill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: No sherry bomb, this comes in with some dried orange peel, cereals and dried leaves. The orange peel picks up as it sits and some mildly-spicy oak joins it. With time the oak softens and some toffee emerges along with some roasted malt; a bit of cream/milky cocoa too now. Water emphasizes this development and pulls out more of the leaves as well. Continue reading
This week of Ben Nevis has not turned out to be all I hoped it would be. Monday’s 20 yo from Single Cask Nation was disappointing; while Wednesday’s 21 yo from the Daily Dram was a fair bit better, it didn’t have me reaching for superlatives either. Those were both refill sherry casks. Today’s closer is also 21 years old but is from a hogshead. Will it reward my oft-stated faith in bourbon cask Ben Nevis? Let’s see.
Ben Nevis 21, 1998 (48.2%; Archives; hogshead 188; from a bottle split)
Nose: Quite fruity with melon, pineapple, tart-sweet apple. The nuts and powdered ginger and funky notes are so far not here. The powdered ginger emerges with time along with some cream and some dusty oak A few drops of water make the cream expand and bring out more sweet fruit to go with it—some blueberries too now. Continue reading
Ben Nevis week got off to a disappointing start with Monday’s 20 yo from 1996. That one, bottled by Single Cask Nation, was from a refill oloroso puncheon. Today I have for you another from the 1996 vintage, with an additional year of age. It is also from a refill sherry cask—a butt in this case, and the type of sherry not specified. This one was bottled by the Daily Dram—which, I have to constantly remind myself is an independent bottler unrelated to the Nectar’s “Daily Drams” series. Anyway, I’m hoping this will reset this week of Ben Nevis. Odds are good as I can’t remember the last time I had two indifferent Ben Nevises in a row.
Ben Nevis 21, 1996 (50.6%; The Daily Dram; refill sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: A classic Ben Nevis arrival with roasted nuts, malt, ginger powder, yeasty dough and rubber gaskets from old medicine bottles. On the second sniff there’s a fair bit of salt and just a hint of smoke. As it sits some sweet citrus emerges (orange peel and juice). With time the yeast comes to the fore and is joined by some white pepper. Water pushes the yeast back a bit and brings out more citrus. Continue reading
Okay, let’s bring to an end this week of reviews of recent’ish releases in Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered Collection. The week began on Monday with an Ardmore 11 that was matured in ex-Islay casks. It continued on Wednesday with a bourbon cask Glenrothes. Both those casks were unusual expressions of those distilleries’ profiles but neither got me very excited—though I did like them both. The final whisky for the week is more in line with the distillery’s official profile: this is a Highland Park from a refill sherry butt. Yes, it says it’s an “Unnamed Orkney” but unless word emerges that casks from Scapa are also being sold under these “Unknown/Secret Orkney” appellations, it’s safe to assume these are all Highland Parks. I did a whole week of Highland Park reviews last month (here, here and here). I liked two of those quite a lot and was only a bit disappointed by the one official release in the lot (though I didn’t think it was bad). Let’s hope this one is more in line with the two indies from the last go-around. Continue reading
From Ardmore in the eastern highlands we move a bit north and a bit west to Glenrothes in the Speyside. Like Monday’s Ardmore this Glenrothes too was bottled by Signatory in its Un-Chillfiltered Collection series and was also matured in a bourbon cask—albeit, unlike that Ardmore, this was not an ex-Islay cask. And like the Ardmore this is a recent release—both were bottled in 2021. Bourbon cask Glenrothes is not very common—most of the official releases from the distillery, past and present, have involved sherry casks in the vattings. As a result, Glenrothes is one of those distilleries—Highland Park is another—whose official profile is associated with sherry maturation, and it is to the independents we must go to get a sense of what their spirit is like when matured entirely in bourbon casks. I think I’ve mentioned before that I rather like bourbon cask Glenrothes and also that I have samples of a few ex-bourbon Glenrothes bottles on my shelves. And I think I may also have been promising reviews of those samples for almost as long as the blog has been active. Well, if I like this one maybe I’ll actually get around to digging those out and reviewing them as well. Continue reading
Last week featured malt whiskies from three different Indian distilleries (Kamet, Amrut and Paul John). This week will feature malt whiskies from three different Scottish distilleries. In a further connection, they’re all bottled by Signatory—and to be more specific, they were all bottled in Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered Collection. Bottles in this series, usually but not always at 46% abv, were a major part of my malt whisky education more than a decade ago. I lost track of them for a while after that but was very glad to see a bunch of recent releases in the series on the shelves of a local liquor store in early May. I bought two of those and both will be reviewed this week. First up, is an Ardmore 11, 2009. I am—as is no secret—a big fan of Ardmore’s peated profile, with its emphasis on pepper, mineral notes and fruit. I didn’t realize until I got home that this cask might not display those qualities. Why? Well, because the label says “Bourbon Barrel after Islay” which I take to mean an ex-bourbon barrel that had previously held Islay whisky. If a heavily peated one, those notes might easily overpower Ardmore’s more delicate profile. Did that in fact prove to be the case? Read on. Continue reading
This week of reviews of Indian whiskies started out on an unexpectedly strong note with the new’ish Kamet single malt and picked up even more steam with the triple-distilled Amrut 7 yo bottled for Spec’s in Texas. The Kamet was put together from a mix of bourbon, sherry and wine cask matured spirit; the Amrut was from an ex-bourbon cask. Here now to close out the week is a sherry cask whisky from the Goan distillery, Paul John. I visited the distillery in 2020 (read about it here) right before the pandemic hit. I remember seeing sherry casks in the warehouse but didn’t hear anything about their plans for that spirit—I was on the basic tour; it’s possible they say more about their cask programs if you sign up for the tasting following the tour. Anyway, I don’t know if they’ve released any full-term sherry matured whisky. This is a oloroso finish bottled at 48% (there’s also been a release of a cask strength 7 yo oloroso finish). As per Whiskybase, there have been at least four numbered batches in this series and their Whiskybase scores are all over the map. I have to confess that I don’t know which batch this sample is from (I will check with the source). I do hope that it will provide a good end to this week of Indian whisky reviews. Let’s see. Continue reading